Best Comic Books I Read in 2021

1. The Department of Truth, Vol 1: The End of the World (2021) & Vol 2: The City Upon a Hill (2021) by James Tynion IV and Martin Simmonds

The Department of Truth is an inventive spin on conspiracy theories. In this world, every conspiracy is true, but at the same time, no conspiracy theory is true. It’s a slight spoiler to explain that, basically, if enough people believe in a conspiracy then it manifests in reality. The “Department of Truth” is a government agency that works to prevent dangerous conspiracies from spreading and becoming real. The books are well-researched in conspiracy lore, featuring popular theories like JFK, flat earth, the Satanic panic, Bigfoot, and more. My only gripe is that it’s a bit too anti-conspiracy theory, the subtext being all conspiracy theories are false and conspiracy theorists are dangerous. In reality, many (but not all) conspiracy theories are false, and some (but not most) conspiracy theorists are dangerous. Overall, this was really well-written with great artwork and I can’t wait for the next volume.

2. Aleister & Adolf by Douglas Rushkoff and Michael Avon Oeming (2016)

A fascinating historical fiction comic based on the (possibly true) story of how Aleister Crowley used ritual magic and symbols (such as the V for Victory) to help England and the Allies defeat Adolf Hitler and his Nazi occultists (who also used magical symbols such as the swastika) during World War II. What does it mean if Crowley, once referred to as “the wickedest man in the world,” worked against Hitler?

3. The Unwritten, Vol. 1: Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity by Mike Carey, Peter Gross, Yuko Shimizu (2010)

A meta take on a Harry Potter-like fantasy book, in which the characters that the author writes about come to life in the real world—including the villains. I only read the first issue in this multi-part series so far, but I am eager to read the rest and see where it goes. (I read most of my comics via Hoopla, but they currently only have the first volume available.)

4. Rogue Planet by Cullen Bunn, Andy MacDonald, Nick Filardi (2021)

A fantastic sci-fi space horror about astronauts landing on an alien planet. Think Prometheus meets Solaris meets Lovecraft.

5. Batman: The Doom That Came To Gotham by Mike Mignola, Richard Pace, Troy Nixey, Dennis Janke, Dave Stewart, Bill Oakley (2000)

Batman meets the Lovecraftian elder gods and cosmic horror. A combination I never knew I wanted but they worked really well together. I’m not especially interested in Batman comics (or superheroes in general) but I was intrigued by the Lovecraft aspect. I doubt it will ever happen, but this would make for a great Batman movie.

6. Abbott by Saladin Ahmed and Sami Kivelä (2018)

A horror noir similar to Lovecraft Country, but better done (than the TV show at least).

7. Weird Detective: The Stars Are Wrong by Fred Van Lente, Guiu Vilanova, Mauricio Wallace, Josan Gonzalez (2017)

A fun mashup of H.P. Lovecraft and Sherlock Holmes, wherein a highly intelligent alien entity (with a nihilistic cosmic perspective similar to Lovecraft’s and an investigative prowess similar to Holmes’s) takes possession of an NYPD detective’s body, then he/it helps solve a weird murder case in New York City.

8. Fall of Cthulhu: Omnibus by Michael Alan Nelson, Greg Scott, Patrick McEvoy , and Pablo Quiligotti (2015)

The first book in this series set in Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos was excellent, but I started to lose interest in the later books when it focused more on the alien gods and less on the humans. There’s a reason Lovecraft himself focused on the humans and left his aliens nebulous.

9. Blade Runner: Origins, Vol. 1: Products by K. Perkins, Mellow Brown, Mike Johnson

A solid addition to the Blade Runner universe. It’s a prequel, set before the first movie, about a different detective investigating a case involving the Tyrell Corporation.

10. Rowans Ruin by Mike Carey and Mike Perkins (2015)

A horror/mystery about a woman who swaps apartments to stay in England, only to end up in a haunted house.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Criminal Macabre Omnibus Volume 1 by Ben Templesmith, Steve Niles, Kelley Jones (2011) – A fun mashup of occult horror, hardboiled detective noir, and comedy. Plus the art is unique and stylish, watercolored (the first issue in the series, at least—after that, the quality in writing and art went down).
  • The Twilight Zone Volume 1-3 by J. Michael Straczynski (2014) – A decent addition to the Twilight Zone series, but I don’t know why they deviated from the short story format to have a longer story arc across multiple books.
  • Likely Stories by Neil Gaiman, Mark Buckingham, Chris Blythe (2018) – A mixed bag of short stories by Gaiman.
  • X Isle by Andrew Cosby (2007) – Similar to LOST.
  • Enigma Cipher by Andrew Cosby (2007) – A mystery involving an old Enigma cipher from WWII.
  • The Empty Man by Cullen Bunn and Vanesa R. Del Rey (2015) – A rare instance where the movie adaptation was much better than the book.
  • Ether by Matt Kindt and David Rubín (2021) – A wild and zany sci-fi/fantasy interdimensional adventure, though the artwork was more impressive than the story.
  • John Constantine, Hellblazer: 30th Anniversary Celebration by Alan Moore, Garth Ennis, Brian Azzarello, Paul Jenkins, Jamie Delano (2018) – I was looking forward to reading this series about an occult detective, but, like the movie, it did not meet my expectations. These issues felt like fan service for those already familiar with the character. Perhaps there is a better Constantine book to begin with.
  • The Freeze by Dan Wickline (2019) – Interesting premise, about a plague that causes the entire world population of humans to freeze, but the writing was mediocre.
  • Stranger Things and Dungeons & Dragons by Jody Houser, Jim Zub, Diego Galindo (2021) – I’ve never played D&D (though I would like to), so perhaps those who have would enjoy this Stranger Things story more than I did.
  • The Fearsome Doctor Fang by Tze Chun (2018)
  • Starship Down by Justin Giampaoli (2020)

Dishonorable Mention:

Poe & Phillips by Jamie Collado (2010) – This sounded like it would be right up my alley: A buddy cop team-up between Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft where they are detectives solving mysteries… Except the execution was terrible. The dialogue was cheesy and the story was incomprehensible. A disappointing waste of time.

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